Eleven years ago, Jane Cremer died at age 58 from the effects of ovarian cancer. While she lost her battle with the disease, her husband, Darryl, decided to carry out the mission she had embarked upon before her life was cut short.
As she was struggling with cancer and experiencing frustration from the lack of information and resources, Jane was determined to help other women who were finding themselves in the same position.
Shortly after his wife died in 1997, Darryl Cremer founded the Racine-based Jane Cremer Foundation. Since then, more than 7,400 women in southeastern Wisconsin have benefited from free education programs designed to provide complete information to all women with cancer.
At the foundation’s first program in 1998, an audience of 300-plus people and a waiting list of 100 more told Cremer he was on to something. From that point on, Cremer has expanded offerings to reach more women in southeastern Wisconsin, bringing in speakers from around the country to address issues surrounding various types of cancers, including screenings, treatment, risk factors and prevention.
“Jane’s mother also died of ovarian cancer, and it was a different and challenging death,” Cremer says. “It was the challenges they faced in getting medical information, and finding out where to go for help. Sometimes it was just the way things were handled. She (Jane) said, ‘People shouldn’t have to work that hard.'”
In conjunction with each program it presents, the foundation schedules continuing education conferences with guest speakers and area primary care physicians, gynecologists, oncologists and other medical professionals. The foundation’s goal is to reinforce early detection and make people aware of available procedures.
As part of its outreach efforts, the nonprofit foundation stages cancer awareness programs in Racine and Kenosha, targeting both the Hispanic and African American communities. Cremer says the efforts of more than 200 volunteers make it all possible, while adding that the occasional thanks he receives from people make it all worth it.
“Every now and then — it doesn’t happen a lot — but sometimes a woman will stop me in a restaurant, or someone will send me a little note that says: ‘I was at the (cancer awareness) program, and I went to see the doctor and I caught it early … thanks for doing what you do,'” Cremer says. “I can’t tell you how much we get back from this. I have made some wonderful friendships through the foundation. It’s people working together to help other people, and that is what makes me feel good about what we do.”